Discover a better reading experience by mashing up writing methods.

Creating an engaging reading experience, part 1 of 6.

This is my first post and I decided to write about writing. Obviously you can tell I need help because my headline sucks (too long and verbose).

Once upon a time, I would dash my thoughts on a blog post and hit send. Then I figured I could automate my content publishing by using tools such as IFTTT to auto-post what I had starred in Feedly. Feedly would publish automatically to my Wordpress blog.

Everyday I would do that for my design studio blog. I’d amass a bunch of interesting articles and thoughts by simply saving them in Feedly and let the magic of automation do the rest.

Until one-day I looked at the design of my blog, in particular how those posts had been integrated from Feedly > Pocket > IFTTT > Wordpress. It sucked. Quite simply the overall user reading experience was shocking (and still is).

Because of that people could barely navigate to the meat of the content and get what they needed.

Because of that my Google Analytics views were low.

Because of that it ended up being a waste of time, diverting my energy from doing other things, like learning about writing.

Until finally I decided to do something about it. I decided to learn about writing. Not just any old writing, but in particular, writing for online.

And ever since that day I feel more empowered. Not only with about how to design and set-up a blog (my initial career path was as a graphic designer) but also with writing, researching and structuring story.

I think these tips have merit and need to be shared. The mission — eliminate crappy web content.

Here’s part I of the magic, the tips I’ve found from others ‘mo bettah’. Let these tips be little helpers that change the way you think about writing, change the way you think about the strategy for your own blog and change the outcome of your efforts.

Writing Method I: Create a Simple Story Structure

Not just any story structure. The Disney story structure. Yes, I love Disney movies. Use this Disney storytelling method to create an arc for the story.

Wait, whats an ‘arc’?

Let’s just get straight into it. You’ll see how I have adopted this arc structure in the first couple of paragraphs above. Try match up the italics below with the italics above to see how it’s integrated into a story form.

  1. Once upon a time
  2. and everyday
  3. until oneday
  4. and because of this
  5. and because of this
  6. until finally
  7. and ever since that day

Get it? Can you see how each step follows one after the other to generate a story arc? Here’s an example of the Disney film ‘Hercules’:

One upon a time there was demi-god called Hercules. Everyday life was good. Until one-day he fell in love. And because of love he was manipulated by Hades to give-up his power. And because of Hercules loss of power it plunged the world into Hades rule. Until finally Hercules discovered the love was a sham. Hercules took his power back, became a demi-god again and defeated Hades. Ever since that day everyone has lived happily ever after.

If you choose this method here are some general tips for using it online:

  1. Make each section of the story arc, very short, ie 1 to 2 sentences don’t waffle on. People read differently online than in print. In print, readers delve deep and are not easily distracted by things to click on. Apparently, people online read 20% slower vs. print (but I haven’t found the source for that yet).
  2. Because readers online are task focused rather than looking for an immersive experience, make sure you give them something useful at the end, because the hero should always win. Basically if you’ve got nothing useful to offer, then why would it be interesting? It would be a horror or some artsy story probably better in some other medium than on most online news outlets or blogs.

So try that for now and see if you notice any different results in how you approach your writing and of course the engagement of your readership.

Please fire away with comments and criticisms. All is welcome. The next articles in this series will be on:

  • Part 2: Usability
  • Part 3: Typography
  • Part 4: Formatting for design
  • Part 5: Sprint writing
  • Part 6: 4 day cycle for longer content

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